The vocal trio of Duckie Simpson, Mykal Rose and Sandra “Puma” Jones were the first reggae group to win a Grammy. Sly ‘n Robbie produced the classic album of which this is the title track: “I’ve got a stalk of sinsemilla growing in my back yard…”
1981: Mary Jane ? Rick James
A love song to pot from the sometime Superfreak. The Medusa-headed rapper, Coolio, performed a version, I’m in Love with Mary Jane, on the soundtrack to the cultish 1998 stoner movie, Half Baked.
1981: One Draw ? Rita Marley
A Bob Marley song from Rita’s album, Who Feels it Knows it, that was released as a single after Bob’s funeral, clearly indicating an end to the mourning. Banned in Jamaica on release, this infectious, pro-ganja delight became the first reggae single to top the Billboard disco charts and inspired Cyprus Hill to produce I Wanna Get High.
1981: Pass the Kouchie ? The Mighty Diamonds
Donald “Tabby” Shaw, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson enjoyed a Jamaican hit with this sublime version of the classic Studio One rhythm, Full Up. Musical Youth successfully covered the song the following year, but changed the title to Dutchie, which makes no sense at all since a Dutch oven cannot easily be passed from the left hand side, unlike a ceremonial pipe, chalice, or “Kouchie.”
1983: Police in Helicopter ? John Holt
Title track of the veteran reggae star’s album, in which the singer balanced his lover’s persona, borrowed from Gregory Isaacs, with that of the rootsman who here righteously complains about the aerial ganja interdiction squads.
1983: Smoke Two Joints ? The Toyes
Mawg and Sky of The Toyes were living in Honolulu in 1983, where Mawg was playing in “a horrible Top 40 band” when he wrote this tune, taught it to his brother, and the pair borrowed $1,000 from their mom to record it: “‘I smoke two joints in the morning, I smoke two joints at night/ I smoke two joints in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright…” It’s featured on their CD from 1996, along with songs called (Hey, Uncle Sam) Leave Us Pot Smokers Alone and Monster Hash (a parody of Monster Mash). Sublime did a version on their album, 40 oz to Freedom.
1984: Sensi Addict ? Horace Ferguson
Early digital reggae, sparsely produced on a rinky-dink Casio keyboard by Prince Jazzbo for his Ujama label, with the singer declaring: “Wisdom, knowledge and understanding/ Are what the sensimilla really bring.”
1985: Under Mi Sensi ? Barrington Levy
For their first co-production, Paul Love, aka Jah Screw, and Ranking Joe recruited broader-than-Broadway Barrington Levy to yodel over this wicked tune, castigating official hypocrisy over the weed trade: “Babylon, you na like ganja man/ But we bring the foreign currency ‘pon the island.”
1986: Herbsman Hustling ? Sugar Minott
Over a Sly and Robbie, Sugar sings this paean to nickel and dime street salesmen in his classic roots style. Although it’s the humble herbsman who risks his neck to make his daily living, all levels of Jamaican society are implicated in the ganja trade: “Wrap up a draw for the lawyer/ Wrap up a draw fe’ commissioner…”
1989: Urb-an Music ? Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
A sly comment on both radio formatting and the felicitous combination of music and herb from the album, One Bright Day: “Lord they fight it so/ And I bet they don’t even know/ What it can do for all of you/ Urb-an music, urb-an music, urb-an music…”
1989: Cheeba Cheeba ? Tone Loc
The rasping rapper first had a hit with a remake of Wild Thing and this prototypical pothead rap is a highlight of his debut album, Loc’ed After Dark: “…it seems a lot of times I’m at my best/ After some methical or a bowl of sens/ I’m creatin’, multiplyin’, big time supplyin’/ Enuff bud to keep tha whole party high on…”
1989: Paul’s Boutique ? The Beastie Boys
The beer-swilling brats of Fight for Your Right to Party switched to cheeba for their massively influential second album, which is littered with mad rhymes and weed references: “Space cake cookies, I discover who I am/ I’m a dusted old bummy Hurdy Gurdy Man” (Car Thief); “I smoke cheeba, it helps me with my brain/ I might be a little dusted, but I’m not insane” (3 Minute Rule); and, “I’m so high that they call me Your Highness/ If you don’t know me then pardon my shyness” (Mike on the Mic).
1990: Green Day ? Green Day
A “green day” is Bay-area slang for a day with lots of green bud where you just sit around taking bong hits and hanging out. Billie Joe wrote the song Green Day about his first pot experience and his punk rock group changed its name from Sweet Children to Green Day in 1990, recording the song on their debut album, 39/Smooth, which has been rereleased as 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.
1991: The Herb ? Tony Rebel
Leading the lyrical reaction to the slackness in Jamaican dancehall music, Patrick George Anthony Barrett, aka Tony Rebel, here produced by Donovan Germain, delivers one of the most erudite pro-ganja raps: “Now, we used to plant it enough in Jamaica/ And they burn it down with ’nuff police and soldier/ And them import the coke fe mash up we future/ But, you see the Herb/ It just me brain it preserve/ You see, the Herb/ It make I-man observe/ You see, the Herb/ It just a-strengthen me nerve…”
1991: Who’s Got the Herb ? Human Rights
Written by HR (Paul Hudson), lead singer of the influential hardcore band, Bad Brains, and performed by HR with his brother, Earl, on drums and David Byers on guitar and keys as Human Rights on their 1991 EP, I Luv: “When we smoke it in our bong it feels so nice.”
1991: Cypress Hill ? Cypress Hill
Stone classic album, featuring (among others) Something for the Blunted, Light Another and Stoned is the Way of the Walk: “I hit they ass like the Buddha that’s stinky/ They wanna scruff but they just so rinky-dinky/ I’m the freaka, the one who freaks the funk/ Sen got the Phillie an’ he’s gonna light the blunt…”
1992: The Chronic ? Dr Dre
“Do you think herb has helped to mellow out a lot of the thug mentality in hip-hop?” Replies Snoop Dogg: “On the real, when me and Dre put chronic on the map, we took crack out of the black community. It’s erasing the crack that was killing a lot of our people and sending homies to the jailhouse.”
1992: How to Roll a Blunt ? Redman
Redman, aka Reggie Noble, was happy to explain on this rhyme from Whut? Thee Album: “Lick the blunt and then the Philly blunt middle you split/ Don’t have a razor blade, use ya fuckin’ fingertips/ Crack the bag and then you pour the whole bag in/ Spread the ism around until the ism reach each end/ Take your finger and your thumb from tip to tip/ Roll it in a motion then the top piece you lick/ Seal it, dry it wit ya lighter if ya gotta/ The results, mmmmmmmmm… proper.”
1992: California ?ber Alles ? Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
The Dead Kennedy’s punk classic updated by Michael Franti on a key track from Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury: “Now its 1992/ Knock knock at your front door, hey guess who?/ It’s the suede denim secret police/ They’ve come to your house for your long-haired niece/ Gonna take her off to a camp/ ‘Cause she’s been accused of growing hemp.”
1993: Black Sunday ? Cypress Hill
The Hill’s masterpiece and one of the biggest-selling rap albums of all time includes the hit single, Insane in the Brain, Hits from the Bong and the anthem, I Wanna Get High: “My oven is on high, when I roast the quail/ Tell Bill Clinton to go and inhale.” The version that appears on the first NORML Hempilation was recorded live in 1995 and ends with the chant, “If ya wanna legalize the herb, let me hear you say: pom, pom, pom.”